Posted in Ravens Thoughts

NFL Playoffs: 5 things we learned from Wild Card Round

By Chris Schisler

The NFL playoffs are underway and one round is in the books. What did we learn? How has the race for the Super Bowl started to take shape, and what do we know about some of the teams who didn’t do so hot this past weekend? Here are some answers, five lessons from the NFL Wild Card round.

1. The NFL playoff expansion hurts the quality of football:

There’s no way around the fact that the number two seed in both the AFC and NFC had a cakewalk of a game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had it the easiest. They got a Philadelphia Eagles team that looked completely unprepared for the moment. The Buccaneers won 31-15 and the Eagles scored all 15 of their points in the fourth quarter. That may have been the worst playoff game I’ve ever seen. It was awful. The Kansas City Chiefs looked like they had a challenge. Then they turned on the jets and the Steelers were in trouble. Kansas City won 42-21.

The seventh seed led to two very pointless games. The Buffalo Bills also dominated the New England Patriots 47-17. The Los Angeles Rams made the new Monday night wild card game boring with a 34-11 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The playoffs are already where the contenders start to separate from the pack. Wild card blowouts aren’t actually that much of a rarity. Six teams per conference were enough. Seven teams per conference increase the chance of pretenders playing playoff games.

2. The Chiefs and Bills have a lot of firepower

The Chiefs looked like the Super Bowl contender that everybody feared them to be. Patrick Mahomes just went 30/39 for over 500 yards with five touchdown passes. Travis Kelce added a touchdown pass for good measure, I guess. Six Chiefs caught at least four passes. It was an onslaught and it was unstoppable. When the Chiefs are in a groove they are the most deadly offense in the NFL.

Speaking of in a groove, that’s what we got from Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills scored on every offensive possession except the one where Josh Allen took a knee at the end of the game. It wasn’t just the Allen to Steffan Diggs show. It was nine different Bills catching a pass. Also, it was Allen picking up 66 yards on the ground and Devin Singletary churning out over 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. When the Bills and Chiefs are on, they are very on.

These teams are set to take on each other in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. The amount of firepower these two teams have is going to make this must-see TV. It’s a good chance that the AFC representative for the Super Bowl is the winner of this battle.

3. The 49ers have a Jimmy Garappolo problem

If the San Francisco 49ers could get by without throwing the football, they probably would. While the Dallas Cowboys had no answers for Elijah Mitchell or Deebo Samuel, they didn’t let Jimmy Garappolo have a big day. Garappolo threw a costly interception that got the Cowboys back in striking distance. While he was efficient completing 16 out of 25 passes, he only mustered 172 yards. It’s almost surprising how little the 49ers ask Garappolo to do.

The 49ers have some big wins under their belt. Garappalo has been average and he’s had some games where his play reached a high level. The big question against the Green Bay Packers though, is whether or not Garappolo will keep this offense in the hunt against Aaron Rodgers and a good Packers team. This is the best Packers team since Rodgers won the Super Bowl over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s hard to have confidence in the 49ers’ quarterback and that’s a problem.

4. NFL Wild Card game proves Raiders should be looking for a new head coach:

Rich Bisaccia may be the only interim head coach to lead a team to the playoffs, but he also had more talent than most interim head coaches have. The Raiders had Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs, and a heck of a pass rush. That’s not a bare cupboard to bake dessert with. The fact of the matter is that the Raiders were a borderline playoff team. They got in, but it could have easily gone the other way. A playoff appearance isn’t a ticket to keeping the job.

The Raiders made it a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. They lost 26-19. but they looked completely out of sorts. The whole game was the Raiders playing catch-up and doing so in very uninspiring chunks at a time. The Raiders were penalized seven times. Most of this was undisciplined self-inflicted mistakes for the Raiders. Did Bisaccia take over for Jon Gruden and exceed expectations? He did, but how low were his expectations?

The Raiders are starting over. There’s no more Gruden. There’s no more Mayock, and keeping Bisaccia may make their fresh start a half-measure.

5. The Bengals are unfazed by the NFL postseason pressure

Give credit where credit is due. The Bengals handled the pressure of going for their first playoff win in 31 years beautifully. They embraced it and clearly saw it as an opportunity rather than something to worry about. Joe Burrow looked like he’s been in the playoffs before and it was his first trip to meaningful games in January.

Look, I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop. The defense has some issues and their inability to protect Joe Burrow in the pocket is worth bringing up. Larry Ogunjobi being out for the postseason hurts their defensive line and if Trey Hendrickson is out on Saturday it’s good news for the Tennessee Titans. Whether they’ve overachieved or not, this Bengals team is a confident one. They have a legitimate shot at going to the Super Bowl. If the shoe doesn’t drop and their carriage doesn’t turn into a pumpkin, the Bengals may be for real. The fact that beating the Raiders looked like another day at the office is a big sign for Zac Taylor’s team.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: 2021 exit assessment

Bring on the NFL Divisional Round. This should be fun.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

NFL Wild Card Preview: Thoughts for Saturday Slate

By Chris Schisler

The NFL Wild Card round starts today and it’s time for a quick preview of the action. The Saturday slate starts with a battle in The Jungle, it’s the Las Vegas Raiders vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. The nightcap is the Buffalo Bills hosting the Patriots in a division rivalry playoff style. Here’s what I’m thinking going into these games.

Raiders vs. Bengals

This game feels a lot like the Ravens playoff game against the Titans in 2019. It’s a Bengals team that’s feeling itself after winning the division for the first time in a long time. It’s a sneaky good matchup for the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bengals rebuild comes on the backs of young players and their lack of playoff experience has to be noted. The pressure is on the Bengals and if the Raiders make this a game, Cincinnati may not be able to handle it.

The Bengals are the best team in this matchup. Joe Burrow and those three great receivers are the marquee players here. Remember the Ravens were objectively better than the Titans in 2019. In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter unless you’re the better team that day. The Bengals’ offensive line isn’t great. Burrow has been sacked 51 times this season. That’s the most sacks a quarterback has taken this year,

Ravens fans know firsthand how Maxx Crosby can ruin a game. Crosby has eight sacks and a favorable matchup against a team built to throw it a lot. Yannick Ngakoue had 10 sacks this season and the Raiders are generally known for their ability to get after the quarterback.

Because of the Raiders’ one matchup advantage here and the fact that the Bengals are brand new at this contender thing, give me the Raiders. I’m going with the upset.

Prediction: Raiders win 35-28

Patriots vs. Bills:

This one is tough. These teams know each other very well and the AFC East was decided by the slimmest of margins. The Patriots have a young quarterback, but they have all the things that help said young quarterback. They have a coach who is a game plan master. They have a running game that has three running backs averaging over four yards per attempt. New England also has great tight end play. If the Bills can’t stop the run it will be a problem.

This game goes down to two things. Can the New England Patriots win the battle at the line of scrimmage? Secondly, can Josh Allen play at a level where the Bills are going to win regardless? Allen has been hot and cold this season. If Allen throws for under 250 yards and this is a defensive battle, the balance goes to the Patriots. If Allen plays his best, the Patriots aren’t stopping the Bills and their receiving weapons. The Bills have more firepower and they know it. They want to be aggressive in this game and get out to a fast start.

In the first game between these teams, the weather had a huge factor and the Patriots were able to just run the ball and get the win. Tonight will be brutally cold at Orchard Park, but for Buffalo standards, the wind is pretty mild. Both teams are used to playing in the cold so it’s hard to see this playing too much of a factor. In the end, I’ll go with Josh Allen over Mac Jones. Give me the Bills in this one.

Prediction: Bills win 28-24

NEXT POST: Ravens NFL Draft spotlight: Evan Neal OT, Alabama

The Purple and Black Nest aren’t getting a break just because the Ravens are out of the mix. There is plenty of offseason talk to go over with you. At the end of the day, this is a football site and the playoffs are in our jurisdiction. Playoffs, NFL Draft season, you name it and we’re on it.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens fall to Raiders: The good, bad and ugly

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Las Vegas Raiders. That’s what happened. Now let’s take a look at how and why it happened. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from a very heartbreaking opener for the Baltimore Ravens.

The Good for the Baltimore Ravens

With a game like this, we almost don’t want to see the good. It’s easier to just be tied up in a ball of rage and frustration. There were surely some positives though, so let’s touch on them. First, the wide receivers had a strong showing in this game. Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown both played well. Watkins got a deep shot from Jackson. Watkins had four grabs for 96 yards while Brown had six receptions for 69 yards. Would it have been nice to get others involved a bit more? Yes. But this was a tandem that looked much better than anyone gave them credit for.

Jackson’s touchdown pass to Brown was a thing of beauty. He rolled out of the pocket, escaped pressure, and threw a dart right on the money. The negative plays really ding Jackson’s grade here, but the good aspects of his game were fantastic. In many ways, it was a typical Action Jackson showing with 235 yards in the air and 86 on the ground.

Odafe Oweh got his first sack in the NFL. It was more of a coverage sack than anything, yet it was an impressive showing of his athleticism. Derek Carr couldn’t get away from Oweh, who migrated from the other side of the field. Justin Houston also had a sack in his first game with the Baltimore Ravens. The outside linebackers had a respectable outing overall and they had a couple of big plays.

Other than a questionable penalty, Patrick Queen played a great game. Queen led the team in tackles and had a sack. He looked the part of a first-round pick going into his second season.

The Bad for the Baltimore Ravens:

The Ravens’ problems at running back played a larger factor than they may have thought it would. Ty’Son Williams got the most done on the ground and had the big touchdown run. The Ravens shifted to Latavius Murray. Looking back at it, Williams did struggle heavily in pass protection and there were problems with the exchange of the football in the backfield. Murray didn’t get anything going.

Before halftime, the Ravens went for it on fourth and one. They ran the most predictable play ever, and Murray got stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Instead of adding to a 14-7 lead, it allowed the Raiders to score a field goal before halftime. Going for it is understandable – at this point, that’s the Ravens sticking to their identity. The play call was limiting. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to roll Jackson out and give him the option to run or pass?

The Ravens were awful on third down. They only had three third-down conversions in the whole game and had 13 fewer plays run by their offense than Las Vegas did. The Ravens had 20 first downs, but when it got to third down they went 3-12.

Don Martindale had no answers for the Raiders passing game or at least none that would stick. Carr had over 400 yards. It would have been one thing if Darren Waller was the only Raiders pass-catcher to burn the Ravens (and he really did blaze the defense for 10 receptions, 105 yards, and a touchdown).

Fine Waller is a matchup problem for most teams. It’s quite a different story that in addition to Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards had good games. Is life harder without Marcus Peters? Sure. Martindale better figure some things out quickly though, because a lot of that was on him.

The Ugly:

As a whole, the Raiders crushed the Ravens’ offensive line. In particular, Maxx Crosby did the lion’s share of the damage. Alejandro Villanueva played awful at right tackle. It was actually hard to find a lineman who had a great game for the Ravens, yet it was clear who the weakest link was. Villanueva looked slow footed and lost. It’s only one game but maybe this is why Pittsburgh let him slip away to a division rival?

Pass protection was atrocious in this game. It may have been worse than atrocious. Jackson was doing his Houdini act all night and running for his life. While Jackson deserves a lot of credit for most of the positives for the offense, his fumbles were unacceptable. Jackson lost one fumble as a runner. Jackson lost one fumble in overtime, in the pocket. The weight of these fumbles was unbearable for the Ravens’ chances, especially given the timing in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Tavon Young got his first regular-season action since getting hurt in week 2 against the Houston Texans a year ago. He struggled in this game. The good news here is that you knew there would be some rust. Still, it wasn’t sharp.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Keeping perspective after a rough loss to Raiders

The worst thing here is how the Ravens lost. They were up 14-0 and they fell apart. They found a way to lose a game they really couldn’t afford and L in. The demoralizing loss leaves the Ravens with no time to whine and lick their wounds. The Kansas City Chiefs got next.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders: Picks from PBN Round Table

Welcome to the PBN Round Table Baltimore Ravens fans! We kick off our picks with Michael Natelli:

The wild card in the Ravens’ season opener is what the overhauled running back room means for the Week 1 playbook. Is Ty’Son Williams familiar enough with the system to run the full gambit of Greg Roman’s arsenal? Do he and Lamar Jackson have the chemistry to be effective running read option and RPO plays? If not, how comfortable is Greg Roman constructing a game plan that steers away from some of his bread and butter? Can he resist leaning too heavily on the passing game and breaking the identity of this Ravens offense?

If Roman can stay disciplined and doesn’t break the mold, the Ravens should like their chances in Las Vegas even with all the injuries they’ve suffered. The Raiders are missing left guard Richie Incognito and will also likely be without starting running back Josh Jacobs, which will make life much easier for the Baltimore front seven.

Figuring out how to stop an offense that features multiple passing weapons without Marcus Peters may take some time, but if the Ravens can bend without breaking, they should be able to walk out of Allegiant Stadium 1-0. Bold Prediction: Malik Harrison makes a play and reminds everyone why he was originally mentioned as a candidate to be Baltimore’s 2020 first-round pick. Score: 34-23

Related Post: Ravens vs. Raiders: 3 keys for the offense post Gus Edwards injury

Ashley Anderson is going with the Ravens:

In their first game with fans at Allegiant Stadium, the Los Angeles Raiders will be fired up and ready to go. On the flip side, the Ravens have faced plenty of adversity over the last couple weeks as numerous starters suffered season-ending injuries.

They were left scrambling to sign some healthy running backs, and their offense might experience some hiccups in the early going. However, with the exception of Marcus Peters, their defense is relatively healthy.

This may not be the Week 1 blowout fans have become accustomed to, but Baltimore should prevail in a closer than comfortable game. Final score 21-17. Bold prediction: Lamar Jackson and Ty’Son Williams both top 100 rushing yards with Williams notching his first rushing TD.

Chris Schisler doesn’t disagree. It’s a Ravens night:

The Baltimore Ravens battle with the Las Vegas Raiders is one that will tell you a lot. It’s hard to know where this team is in terms of psychology. The Ravens have lost a lot of star power to injuries and we haven’t even kicked off the season. Training camp had some positives, but it’s been a harder path to the kickoff game than usual. This early adversity is either going to be a rallying cry that pumps the team up, or a reason the power doesn’t crank all the way up to start the season.

John Harbaugh is a good coach. The Ravens still have plenty of leadership on this roster and it starts with Lamar Jackson. I expect Jackson to be unphased and therefore the entire team will share his resolve. The Ravens have a ton of things that are working in their favor. Other than the pesky problem that is covering Darren Waller, the Ravens have answers for everything Vegas can throw their way. I’m calling it now, Don Martindale is going to be one excited defensive coordinator at the end of this game. I think the Ravens defense is going to start the season with a statement.

With confidence in the coach, quarterback, and defense, there isn’t much I’m worried about for the Baltimore Ravens. Is there some start to the season nerves? You bet. The expectation is a win. Nothing is free in the NFL and the Ravens have to kick the doors down and take it. Have no doubt though that the expectation, a reasonable expectation at that, is a win that kicks off the Ravens’ season with a big show of force.

Bold Predictions: 

Lamar Jackson has 300 yards passing with three touchdowns through the air and a score on the ground.

Patrick Queen intercepts a pass in this game.

Josh Jacobs has less than 50 yards on the ground and only pitches in 20 yards as a pass-catcher.

Mark Andrews has two touchdown grabs tonight.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 3 big questions vs. Las Vegas Raiders

This concludes our business at the PBN round table. It’s game day ladies and gentlemen!

Posted in Pregame Content

Fantasy Football: Which players from Ravens vs. Raiders do you want?

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are getting ready to take on the Las Vegas Raiders. It’s Sunday morning, so you’re either preparing your season-long fantasy team or getting ready to play FanDuel, Draftkings, or what have you. We’ve hammered the real football aspect of the Monday night battle fairly well. Now it’s time to give you some fantasy football perspective.

The question is simple: Do you want to roll the dice on Ty’Son Williams? Williams is the one running back for the Baltimore Ravens that is a viable play. Williams has been in training camp and was the best running back in the preseason. He’s running back number one, even if that’s simply out of default.

This tweet from Michael Crawford says it all. It appears that John Harbaugh truly believes in his running back. This is his first big shot in the NFL. If anybody has a chance to shine out of nowhere on a national audience it’s Williams.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley reported Greg Roman’s comments on Williams. If you take what the coaching staff has said to this point all to heart, the Ravens are truly going to give Williams every chance to be the top running back in Baltimore.

My recommendation here is to start Williams in your flex spot if you don’t have a rock-solid option other than Williams. It’s a bit of a risk because we’re swimming in uncharted waters. The payoff could be huge. The Raiders were horrible at stopping the run in 2020. It’s something we’ve talked about all week, getting you ready for the game. With all the other running backs being fairly last-minute pick-ups Williams is the only running back you can roll with.

Lamar Jackson is a good play:

Lamar Jackson is very rarely a bad option for your Fantasy Football team. He’s starting this week for my team (Patrick Queen Consolidated). Jackson is usually good for 60 rushing yards or more. Jackson had nine games with two or more passing touchdowns in the 2020 season. He had 10 games with multiple touchdown passes in 2019, including two night games with five touchdowns. On average, Jackson gives you a good Fantasy Football outing. His top performances can pretty much win you the week.

The Raiders defense is a hard one to have confidence in. If the Raiders can’t stop the run, Jackson has a full menu offensively. I’m looking at a quarterback that I expect to see an MVP kind of season from, and I’m all in on him on Monday Night Football. Everyone thinks they have Lamar Jackson figured out. Jackson proves people wrong for a living.

This smells like a big showing for Action Jackson. If Jackson is rolling, this is a good sign for the fantasy value of his favorite targets Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. Andrews in particular is a great play at tight end because I don’t see a Raider who matches up with him well.

What about the Raiders?

Darren Waller is the best option for Fantasy players in this game for the Las Vegas Raiders. If Jimmy Smith does indeed play, this will likely be the player he’s tasked with stopping. If Smith is 100 percent, he could neutralize Waller a bit. Waller is a matchup nightmare either way. Expect Waller to have four or five grabs and 60 yards at a minimum. He’s also the best red-zone threat for the Raiders.

Waller is the only Raiders player that you have to play. Derek Carr has some value. Marcus Peters is out for the year. Even if Anthony Averett does an honorable job in his stead, you’re looking at a secondary that is a little less strong than they were. I also think that Carr could have an inflated stat line because the Raiders will have to throw the ball a lot to stay afloat in this game.

Josh Jacobs is a star player, but I see very little value on Monday Night. I have Jacobs on my team, but  I have him on the bench this week. I put Dolphins running back, Myles Gaskin in his spot. (By the way, Ty’Son Williams is in my flex spot). But why doesn’t Jacobs have much value this week?

Left guard, Richie Incognito isn’t expected to play in this game. The Raiders offensive line was already an area of doubt. The Ravens’ defensive line should have their way in this one. I don’t see Jacobs getting much traction on the ground. He has some worth in a PPR league, but unless he gets into the end zone, his numbers should be ugly.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders: MNF bullet points

Happy NFL Sunday ladies and gentlemen! Any comments, questions, or concerns? You know PBN is always here for the Ravens Flock!



Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 big questions vs. Las Vegas Raiders

By: Ashley Anderson

The Baltimore Ravens will finally kick off their 2021 season this Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders. Although they have yet to play a down, there are some folks saying recent events will derail the entire year. Surely, it will not be an easy start as Las Vegas will have fans at Allegiant Stadium for the first time. Here are three big questions facing the Ravens on Monday night.

How will the offense handle the noise at Allegiant Stadium?

2020 was a quiet season in the NFL with most games played in empty stadiums or crowds with a limited capacity. That will no longer be true Monday night as the Raiders will finally have fans in their new stadium. The max capacity is 71,835, and they will be roaring to go.

To mimic that noise, the Ravens have been plumping pumping fake crowd noise and loud music at their practices. However, there is nothing quite like a fully packed football stadium in prime time, and Baltimore’s offense has a tall task. It is Bradley Bozeman’s first game back at center, and he and Lamar Jackson must be able to communicate well.

One thing Baltimore can do to quiet the crowd is get off to a fast start. If they strike quickly, it will likely make things a bit easier going forward. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman could incorporate more silent counts or high percentage plays to help get the offense in rhythm. Still, it is up to them to execute in a tough environment.

Will recent injuries affect morale for the Baltimore Ravens?

After back-to-back serious injuries in practice Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens cut their day short. It was later confirmed that both starting running back Gus Edwards and starting cornerback Marcus Peters suffered season-ending ACL tears. It was a gut-check for the team, especially given the other serious injuries they have dealt with this offseason.

The Baltimore Ravens regrouped on Friday and reiterated their resolve. This is a team with excellent depth, but injuries have tested them so far. Undoubtedly, seeing your star players go down has an impact on morale. Even head coach John Harbaugh seemed stunned at the losses, and it shows how deeply connected he is to his players.

Baltimore lives by their “next man up” mantra, and there is no better time to flex that than now. Young guys will need to step up and play their hearts out in honor of those who are sidelined. Only time will tell if the Ravens can withstand these challenges.

Who will lead the Ravens’ backfield?

This is the biggest question looming not just over Week 1, but really this entire season. It started when J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL in the final preseason game against the Washington Football Team. It was an unfortunate injury, but Baltimore knew they had reliable runner Gus Edwards waiting in the wings along with veteran Justice Hill and preseason hero Ty’Son Williams.

They were again dealt a blow when Hill tore his Achilles just days after returning from an ankle injury that cost him most of training camp. Still, Edwards and Williams were there, and the Ravens knew they could add a third back after cuts and from remaining free agents. Then, the unthinkable happened as Edwards tore his ACL, thus ending his season.

That latest setback left the Ravens reeling. Eric DeCosta swiftly added Le’Veon Bell to the practice squad and Trenton Cannon to the 53-man roster. Bell was prolific in his heyday, but it has been a while since he played at a high level. Cannon is more of a special teams guy, who would likely receive few carries.

Baltimore then went on to add Devonta Freeman to their practice squad. Freeman spent camp with the New Orleans Saints, so the Ravens are confident he is in football shape. After the Saints also parted ways with Latavius Murray, the Ravens also snatched him up on a one-year, $2 million deal.

Bell, Freeman, Murray, and Cannon have had limited practices with Baltimore, and they have much to learn about the playbook. One of them, however, will be the second-string running back come Monday night, with Williams, the only back who spent a full offseason with the team, leading the way.

NEXT POST: Picks for each NFL game on the week 1 slate

Likely, Lamar Jackson will do a bit more running than the Ravens would like to offset these recent issues. The Ravens could also use a versatile player like Devin Duvernay as a runner on jet sweeps to keep the ground game moving. It is a tall task, but the Ravens led the NFL in rushing the past two seasons with a variety of backs, and this year should be no different.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders: MNF bullet points

By Chris Schisler

  • The Baltimore Ravens have had their adversity start early. J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, and Marcus Peters have all been lost to injuries.
  • The Ravens added as much as they could to the running back position. New Ravens include Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Trenton Cannon.
  • Monday Night Football will be the first look of 0Marquise Brown this season. Brown didn’t play in the preseason. Rashod Bateman and Nick Boyle still haven’t returned.
  • The Ravens will be playing a familiar opponent, Yannick Ngakoue signed with the Raiders this offseason. The running back position isn’t the only new look spot on the roster. The outside linebacker positions have been impacted heavily by the offseason with Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh being the most notable additions.

Must Read: Picks for each NFL game on the week 1 slate

  • The Raiders’ biggest problem last year was stopping the run. It makes for a good test drive of the Ravens’ new backfield rotation. If the Ravens can keep the run game as a core strength it will be a huge deal.
  • This is your first real look at the difference that Keith Williams has on the passing schemes as the pass game coordinator. The preseason probably didn’t show many of the Ravens’ new tricks.
  • There is a lot of pressure on both Greg Roman and Lamar Jackson this season. The Ravens need more from the passing game. They ranked last in passing attempts and yards last season, despite being a very efficient offense.
  • One thing to watch is the turnover battle. The Raiders were -11 in the turnover ratio last season. This is a huge opportunity for Baltimore to take the football away on defense.
  • Richie Incognito has reportedly missed practice time. The Raiders may not have Incognito starting at left guard on Monday Night. This could be an area for the Ravens to attack.

Players to watch:

  • Darren Waller had promise and potential with the Ravens. He’s realized that potential with the Raiders. The tight end has become a star who had over 1,000 yards in the 2020 season.
  • Derek Carr has shockingly good statistics on his resume. He’s had three straight years over 4,000 yards passing. Last year he had 4,103 yards, 27 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
  • Maxx Crosby had seven sacks last season. The 6’5″ Eastern Michigan product is entering his third season. He has 17 sacks tallied already in the NFL. With the help of Yannick Ngakoue, the offensive line could get a test.

Hot Article: Baltimore Ravens: Moving forward after Marcus Peters injury

  • Speaking of offensive tackles, Alejandro Villanueva is getting his first test in the regular season as a Raven. He needs to show that he’s still got a season or two of good football in the tank.
  • For the Ravens, it’s all about Lamar Jackson. It always is, the injuries sustained before the season even kicked off made that even clearer. The Ravens need Jackson to have another MVP type of season.
  • Anthony Averett, you’re up! Averett may need more help than Marcus Peters did, but Averett has to hold his own in this game as the first fill-in for Marcus Peters.

Things to think about:

  • Lamar Jackson has excelled in primetime games in the regular season. He has two prime-time games with five touchdown passes and he’s only entering his third full year as the starting quarterback of the Ravens.
  • The rotation of running backs is an experiment. This is something that will grow and develop over the first four or five weeks of the season. Trial and error is the only approach Baltimore can really take with this make-shift group.
  • The Ravens’ success in season openers under John Harbaugh, especially with Lamar Jackson, is at the very least an encouraging thought in the back of the collective mind of the Ravens Flock.

NEXT POST: Ravens vs. Raiders: 3 keys for the offense post Gus Edwards injury

It’s almost go-time for the Ravens season. Even with the adversity, the team has already faced, there is a new hope brewing in Baltimore. This still has the chance to be a special season.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens: Early reasons for confidence vs. Las Vegas Raiders

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a reputation for being dominant in the season opener of the season. The Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns 38-6 to start the 2020 season. They crushed the Dolphins 59-10 in 2019, the season Lamar Jackson won the NFL MVP and the Ravens went 14-2. The year before that Baltimore had fun in the rain, beating the Buffalo Bills 47-3.

This year Baltimore travels to take on the Las Vegas Raiders in week 1. It’s a game the Ravens are the favorites in, even on the road. The Vegas Raiders are a complete question mark coming into the 2021 season. They crumbled in the hunt for the wild card spot last season. Jon Gruden had an up and down season and his roster arguably has as many questions as it did a season ago.

The Ravens, who are looking for their fourth straight trip to the playoffs, and have their eyes set on a third division title in four years, have a chance to make a statement on Monday Night Football. On top of the success that John Harbaugh has had in season openers, Lamar Jackson is known for big games in prime time.

Other than a debacle against the Kansas City Chiefs last season, Jackson has shown up big in primetime regular-season games. In 2019, Jackson put up five touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams in a 45-6 victory on the road. He also took down the New England Patriots and had another five touchdowns against the New York Jets. Last year, Jackson had the epic return in the Ravens 47-42 win against the Browns.

The bad news for the Raiders is that this is a spot where the Ravens are supposed to win, in a season opener, where Lamar Jackson gets a chance to show off in prime time. To make things worse for the Raiders, the Ravens have made cruising past teams they should beat a staple of the Jackson-era teams. Gone are the days where the Ravens play down to the level of their competition. For the most part since 2019, the Ravens have not just beaten, but crushed lesser opponents.

It remains to be seen whether the Raiders are indeed a lesser opponent. It’s a new year with a new optimism in the new “Black Hole.”  Derek Carr having another strong season is a strong possibility. Statistically, Carr had his best season with just over 4,100 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions in 2020. Even with these numbers, the Raiders went just 8-8.

The Raiders had the 24th best run defense in the NFL last season. That’s obviously a concern for the Raiders against the Ravens. Even without J.K. Dobbins, the Ravens are expected to be one of the best teams running the football.

Many pundits have predicted a slower start for the Ravens on offense because of the injuries and lack of preseason playing time. It does make sense that the Ravens may need time to gel together, though this is an opener where Greg Roman can probably stay in his play-calling happy place. A Lamar Jackson showcase and a strong dose of the run game seem highly likely.

Carr has made the Ravens pay before. In 2016, Carr came to Baltimore with a four-touchdown performance to beat the Ravens 28-27. The Ravens however have had the Raiders’ number over the years. In 2017, the Ravens beat the Raiders 30-17. In 2018, the Ravens won the bout with the Raiders to the tune of a 34-17 score. Baltimore leads the all-time series nine games to three.

While we’re on the subject of the history between these teams it’s good if you’re a Ravens fan. The Ravens’ first game was 25 years ago and it was a 19-14 win over the Raiders. Baltimore beat the Oakland Raiders 16-3 in the 2000 AFC Championship game on the way to Super Bowl XXXV. In the 2012 season, the Ravens scorched the Raiders 55-20.

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The Ravens have some things going for them in the season opener. They’re typically good to start the season. They’re typically good when Jackson has a chance to show off under the lights in a regular-season game, and they typically beat up the Raiders. When you add in the matchup problems the Ravens pose for the Raiders, you have to feel confident betting on the Ravens in week 1.